By Luo Wangshu and Su Zhou
China Daily, Beijing / Asia News Network.
Wu Dan has been trying to decide whether or not to have a second child for about two years, since she became eligible, as she and her husband have no siblings.
Now, she feels under more pressure since the central government eased the family planning policy further, allowing all couples to have two children.
“My parents and parents-in-law have been trying to persuade me to have a second child, and they said it is now a State policy,” said Wu, 29, a civil servant in Jiangsu province who has a 3-year-old daughter.
“I have not made up my mind yet. It is a big decision to have another baby. I took six months leave to give birth to my daughter. When I returned to the office, my post was taken by another colleague and I had to work in a new field.”
Millions of women in China may suffer from Wu’s dilemma.
“The policy affects families, especially women, because women carry the responsibility of giving birth and raising children,” said Tang Fang, director of the economic law center at China Women’s University, Beijing.
Women may face severe obstacles at work when they are allowed to have a second child, Tang said, because the policy increases labor costs to pay for maternity leave and may make employers reluctant to hire women.
“The lack of child care services and high cost may cause many mothers to return to the family to take care of their children,” Tang said.
A researcher specialising in women’s rights and labor and social security, Tang said the cost of labor may then rise, since the supply would decline. So employers should realise that supporting women in the workplace is to protect the market.
“Women give birth to the next generation, who become the workforce in the market,” Tang said, adding it is crucial to treat women equally.
“In China, it is more likely the mother’s responsibility to look after a child,” she said, calling for the government to invest in establishing more child care services to ease the burden on women.
One of Wu Dan’s main concerns is the problem of educating children. “There are not enough places in preschool,” Wu said. “It was difficult for us to find a place for my daughter and I do not want to experience that again.”
“An increasing number of employers, especially medium and large companies, are shifting their focus to attract talented female employees by offering beneficial policies for childbearing and child care,” said Wang Yixin, a senior consultant from Zhilian Recruiting, a China-based recruitment website.
Zhilian surveyed 100 employers in August, finding that 80 per cent have favorable policies for women choosing to have a second child.
However, employers have to pay more for female employees’ maternity leave, Wang said, admitting that some fast-developing small and medium-sized employers would prefer male employees.
“The golden time for women’s career development is from 25 to 35 years old, overlapping with the childbearing age. When women choose to have kids during this time, it could cost them opportunities at work,” Wang added.
Many companies have realized the benefits and put policies in place to support their female employees who want to have a second child. Online travel company Ctrip.com International provides zero-interest loans to employees to raise a second child in an attempt to tackle the financial burden.
Employees who have worked at Ctrip for more than two years are eligible to receive free interest-free loans ranging from 200,000 yuan ($31,480) to 400,000 yuan.